Riot over Blackout Leaves 3 Dead in Colombia

BOGOTA – Three people died during disturbances spurred by an 18-hour-long electricity blackout in the northwestern Colombian town of San Andres de Sotavento, authorities in Cordoba province said on Monday.

The trouble began Sunday afternoon after the utility failed to restore service at the promised time, provincial secretary Jairo Lopez Covo and Cordoba’s police commander, Col. Pedro Angelo Franco, told the media.

An angry mob vandalized city hall and the offices of Electricaribe power company before moving on to the mayor’s home, which was sacked and then set on fire.

Two members of the mob died at the scene from smoke inhalation and a third passed away later at the hospital.

Col. Franco said several other people were hurt while trying to restrain the mob and that it was almost midnight before police could restore order in San Andres.

Authorities are offering a reward of 10 million pesos ($5,000) for information leading to the instigators of Sunday’s riot.

Power outages are common in Cordoba province, San Andres Mayor Guido Sibaja told Caracol Radio.

Sunday’s blackout was “the last drop,” he said. “The people of San Andres were tired of so many interruptions in the service.”

Colombia’s minister of Mines and Energy, Hernan Martinez, said in comments to Caracol that while Electricaribe has improved service to coastal cities, the company’s rural and small-town customers continue to experience “very deficient” service. EFE

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